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Mary Baker Eddy (Radcliffe Biography Series)
ISBN 0738202274 / 9780738202273 / 0-7382-0227-4
Publisher Da Capo Press
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The feminist perspective of historian Gillian Gill (author of a previous biography of Agatha Christie) adds three-dimensionality to the life story of the controversial, charismatic founder of Christian Science. Neither unblemished saint nor unscrupulous manipulator, Mary Baker Eddy (1821-1910) emerges in this substantive reassessment as a powerful woman so constrained by conventional notions of femininity that she suffered decades of frustration and ill health before liberating herself with radical new ideas. Her emphasis on spiritual healing and women's empowerment made enemies virtually from the first publication of Science and Health in 1875; the schisms and lawsuits that plagued her church gave Eddy's opponents ammunition. In her thorough coverage of such touchy matters, Gill doesn't deny her subject's imperiousness and tendency to paranoia, but her sympathetic analysis stresses Eddy's gifts as a religious leader, administrator, and propagandist. The author gained access to the closely guarded Christian Science archives without ceding editorial control, and her scrupulous effort to freshly judge every issue justifies this trust. Gill's dry wit and first-person presence in the text's opinions ensure that her lengthy, exhaustively documented narrative doesn't feel unduly daunting or academic. --Wendy Smith [via]